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‘Legend’ Author Marie Lu on Social Networking & Writing YA Fiction

Marie Lu‘s debut novel, Legend, hits the shelves tomorrow. We caught up with Lu (pictured, via) to learn more about how authors can utilize social networking tools, the writing process for the book and her views on being an Asian-American author. The highlights follow below…

Q: How did you land your book deal?
A: My agent, Kristin Nelson, first took me on for a novel that we ultimately didn’t sell. While we waited for feedback on that one, I began writing Legend. After two intense rounds of edits with Kristin, we submitted Legend to publishers in the summer of 2010, and I recall shrieking in my apartment when Kristin told me it was going to auction with six interested publishers. Legend sold to Penguin a couple of weeks later!

Q: You drew inspiration for Legend from watching a musical production of Les Miserables. During the writing process, did you consult with Victor Hugo‘s Les Miserables?
A: It’s odd–Les Miserables triggered the first flash of inspiration for Legend (a criminal versus a detective-like character), but after that, I never referred to it again. I think the story just started going in a completely different direction. I did consult Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow a few times for inspiration on how to write from the point of view of a child prodigy.

Q: How did consulting Orson Scott Card‘s Ender’s Game help in writing Legend?
A: Ender’s Game was a great reference for how to write from a child prodigy’s point of view (something really challenging for a person who is not a child prodigy!). I found myself constantly rereading how Ender would analyze a situation or think about the people around him, and then trying to apply what I learned into my chapters about June.

Q: Do you have any tips for authors looking to connect with their readers via social networking sites?
A: I think something readers really love to see is an insider’s view–it’s always nice to use social networking to keep readers updated on the latest reviews or signings, etc, but it’s also good to sprinkle in casual social updates about your writing life. Tweeting something like “I think one of my characters just rebelled against my perfectly planned outline!” always gets fun reactions. I think readers really enjoy peeking in on the process. You can’t be too serious when connecting with readers via social networks….have fun with it.

Q: What do you think is the best way to self-edit?
A: I think the single best tool when self-editing is giving yourself distance from the writing. When I force myself not to look at my manuscript for several weeks, and then return to it, I suddenly see all sorts of mistakes that I would not have otherwise caught. Giving myself distance from my story forces me to take my blinders off.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you can offer aspiring children’s writers?
A: My single piece of advice is always: be brave. By that, I mean that not only should you stay determined even in the face of rejection–but that if your story is just not working, you have to be brave enough to acknowledge that and put the story aside. Start something new. It can be so intimidating to abandon something you’ve worked on for so long, but if you know in your heart that it’s not working, starting a new story is the best thing to do. I never would have written Legend if I’d kept dwelling on the first novel that my agent took me on for.

Q: Do you think there is a shortage of people who represent the Asian-American voice in publishing?
A: I am always thrilled to meet other Asian-Americans in the publishing world and the creative fields in general. I can still remember reading a fantastically insightful blog post from Tess Gerritsen titled, “Where are all the Asian-American writers?”, back when I was an unagented writer. That post really stayed with me. Are young Asian-American writers deterred by the ‘starving writer’ stereotype? I hope not. There are some fantastic Asian-American writers today: Mike Jung (GEEKS, GIRLS, & SECRET IDENTITIES), Andrew Fukuda (THE HUNT), Ellen Oh (PROPHECY), Cindy Pon (FURY OF THE PHOENIX), Malinda Lo (HUNTRESS) …and that’s just off the top of my head. I hope to see more in the future.

Q: What’s next for you?
A: The next book in the Legend trilogy will be released in Fall 2012. I do have an idea for a new story, although it’ll be a while before it becomes fully fleshed out. I can’t say much about it at this point. It takes place in a city. That was vague, wasn’t it?

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